Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan: A Novel of a Life in Art by Deborah Reed ★★★☆☆ #BookReview #BookBlog

Primary Genre(s): Women’s Fiction
Published: 6 Oct 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner Books
Page count: 288 (ebook)
My Format: ebook   
Cover: Simple
Pacing: Okay
Ending: Good  
Do I Recommend: Probably
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan

My rating: ★★☆☆

Ninety-three-year-old Violet Swan has spent a lifetime translating tragedy and hardship into art, becoming famous for her abstract paintings, which evoke tranquility, innocence, and joy. For nearly a century Violet has lived a peaceful, private life of painting on the coast of Oregon. The “business of Violet” is run by her only child, Francisco, and his wife, Penny. But shortly before Violet’s death, an earthquake sets a series of events in motion, and her deeply hidden past begins to resurface. When her beloved grandson returns home with a family secret in tow, Violet is forced to come to terms with the life she left behind so long ago—a life her family knows nothing about.

A generational saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America and into the present day, Violet Swan is the story of a girl who escaped rural Georgia at fourteen during World War II, crossing the country alone and with no money. It is the story of how that girl met the man who would become her devoted husband, how she became a celebrated artist, and above all, how her life, inspired by nothing more than the way she imagines it to be, will turn out to be her greatest masterpiece.

My Thoughts
What a lovely title!  Here are my pros and cons for Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan:


  1. I enjoy generational sagas and family dramas. This book, told in past and present narratives, was really good.
  2. This is a 100% character-driven novel. The writing is almost poetic. The descriptions of art and the focus on seeing the beauty around us was uplifting.
  3. I appreciated Violet’s backstory. Violet has secrets long held and she reveals them throughout the story. Her early life was varied, violent, isolated, and full of heartache, but she never let those negative experiences define her.
  4. The story is an interesting look at how much we really don’t know about each other – even others within our own families.


  1. I did not like Frank and Penny (Violet’s son and daughter-in-law). They were annoying characters who didn’t like each other very much and when the story was told from their perspective I lost interest quickly.
  2. I started reading this book in June 2020. I just recently finished it. I kept putting it down because parts of it weren’t holding my interest. It meandered a bit too much from time to time for my personal preference (which is odd considering it is a relatively short book). Sadly, when I put it down, I didn’t pick it up again sometimes for months.

I think this book reminds readers to embrace life. No matter what happens to us, we should never accept victimhood as our fate. Rather, we need to seek out all the beauty and love that life has to offer.

If you enjoy character-driven novels, generational stories, or family drama/dysfunction, you will probably enjoy this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Mariner Books for an electronic ARC, which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily.  

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

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